It’s hard to think of a better transfer, pound-for-pound, that Wolves have made in recent times than Ryan Bennett.
The 28-year-old has surpassed all expectations and the Molineux faithful have gradually come around to what he offers.
But let’s be honest, the announcement of his arrival on a free from Norwich City didn’t exactly set pulses racing.
As I was honeymooning by the pool last May in Portugal (where else?), with Sagres and Twitter on the go, waiting for Nuno to woo us with his vision for the club, you can forgive me for being nonplussed by the Bennett news.
The addition of the Essex-born lad hinted of Paul Lambert’s doing, before he was given his P45, as part of the Scot’s flawed obsession with a squad full of Championship experience (dross).
After Nuno’s arrival and a summer of stellar signings, Bennett’s face didn’t fit. Norwich fans also seemed relieved he was leaving, and minimal playing time in the first two months of the season suggested he wasn’t going to make a mark.
However, after watching a limited QPR team in late October stifle our passing out from the back, brutally exposing Danny Batth’s limitations, change was needed.
Replacing Batth with a fit-again Willy Boly for the Halloween trip to Norwich was a no brainer, but making a second alteration to the back three, with Bennett in for Roderick Miranda, left me miffed.
I’ll get this out in the open now, I was a big fan of Rodders. I thought he was improving all the time defensively and his distribution was excellent. Naively, I had a soft spot for the ex-Rio Ave man, due to years of painstaking hoofball out from the back – I wasn’t used to such a stylish centre half pulling on a Wolves shirt! (I acknowledge Rodders has since shown his true colours).
But having read positive things about Bennett in the 2-0 win in deepest, darkest Norfolk, I approached Fulham’s visit to Molineux three days later with an open mind and was soon eating humble pie.
Bennett’s positioning was excellent, he was a calm presence alongside Boly and Connor Coady, and was surprisingly unflustered on the ball. This was a player thriving from Nuno’s coaching methods and determined to take his chance.
I only fully appreciated Bennett’s importance to the team when Nuno replaced him with Batth at Bristol City though.
I’ve nothing against Danny but he looked a fish out of water at Ashton Gate until rightly being sent off, and it was Bennett who saved the day with his finest hour to date in a gold shirt.
It’s beyond me why he was dropped again for Danny after the Fulham defeat in February and we all know what happened at Villa Park.
More recently, what about Bennett’s performance against Everton on the opening day?
Many doubted the ex-England U21 international could make the step up to the Premier League, but he was the pick of the defence, standing strong as a nervous Boly and Coady struggled with the pace and intensity of the Toffees at times.
With Saiss and Dendoncker likely to compete for the shirt, I’m not saying Bennett will be a starter throughout the season, but based on recent history it would be foolish to write him off anytime soon.
Oh, and Ryan, I have a lot of time for your shirt-tucked-in look. A tough, but let’s face it, naff, style to pull off.